It’s good to talk – and even better to listen


Can People and Planet and The National Community Activists Network link up? I hope so.

Click for People & Planet’s Facebook Page

Click for National Community Activists Network Facebook Page

After three very heavy mainstream politics-related posts that picked up more than enough speed (1,500 direct hits on 3 articles in about 3 days), this blogpost looks at the grassroots activists of People and Planet (P&P) and The National Community Activists Network (NatCAN). I was in Preston last week for NatCAN’s north-west conference. Late last year I was also at Shared Planet – which I blogged about here. It’s on the back of both events that I’m putting two and two together.

P&P – as in their strap-line is a student activist network primarily campaigning for the environment and against poverty. Such is the breadth of those issues that many issues and causes end up being covered & discussed at their gatherings. NatCAN is possibly even more broad, aiming to to support those who want to make the world – or their/your part of it a better place. What struck me about Shared Planet in the autumn and the NatCAN conference last week was the differences in demographics of the two networks alongside the similarities of what they are campaigning about. P&P’s gathering was a younger audience of mainly students and postgraduates with “London & the South East” accents dominating. NatCAN’s audience was generally older, with “Northern” accents being in the majority. Both conferences showed a limited Twitter presence – hence why I’ve put two Facebook links at the top of this post as both seem to have a stronger presence with Facebook than Twitter.

The NatCAN conference

Part of the challenge for me was getting there – a 04:45am start due to having to go into London and back made things more than a little painful, though I managed to get there on time.

There were about 80 people who came along to the conference – actually, it was more of a gathering. I resorted to type dressing in a suit because…well…it said ‘conference’ and that’s what you do for conferences…don’t you? Actually, in the grand scheme of things I find that such formal gatherings subconsciously impede the flow of conversation and learning. You’re not there representing you, you’re representing your organisation and there’s an expectation that goes with that – especially in your comments.

The conference followed a standard pattern – speeches before lunchtime, breakout sessions after it & feedback at the end. The first couple of speeches provoked some interesting reactions. Tim Gee (author of Counterpower) and David Malone, author of Debt Generation were the two speakers. Some felt that the two speeches (Tim’s primarily around the Arab Spring and David’s around the global financial crisis) had little to do with finding local solutions to local problems. Others had never come across the issues in the manner presented and found the speeches really interesting and stimulating. I commented that both speeches were the sort often found in “University-style campaign teach-ins” – the like of which I’ve been familiar with for quite some time. Yet many of the people in that audience (judging by the questions & comments) had not. Hence the desire to get NatCAN activists to link up with P&P activists – the latter organise these sort of events & gatherings for fun. The communities that NatCAN activists live and work in may well be interested in getting into these issues, but may not have the first idea of where to go and who to talk to. The problem of advertising within a university bubble? Challenge to P&P: Can you work with NatCAN to break out of the university bubble and expand your reach beyond the campus? Because the potential audiences are there, and there’s lots you can learn from each other.

What I think would be lovely to see is a number of NatCAN activists going along to P&P’s Summer Gathering at the end of June to discuss and debate many of the things and more, that were covered at both the events I was at. What you choose to do on the back of those conversations…is up to you.



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